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Swine flu can strike anywhere, even your previously disease-free inbox.

As swine flu mania sweeps the country this week, email scammers are using the nation’s fears as a new means for electronic exploitation.

Just take one look at the surge in Google searches for “swine flu” for the past few days (and its Spanish translation, la influenza porcina) (Stock Quote: GOOG). These sudden increases in Web traffic are the things dastardly Internet scam artists dream of.

The most trusted source for all your legitimate swine flu inquiries should be the Center for Disease Control’s official government web site.

Internet users should be especially wary of emails or links to web sites with “swine flu” in the URL. F-Secure Security Labs, a company that specializes in analyzing phishing, spyware, spam and virus attacks recently released this list of swine flu-themed web sites opportunistically registered over the weekend.

Here’s the breakdown of a typical swine flu e-mail scammer technique: The sender is an unknown e-mail address, potentially from a swine flu domain. The subject line is related to swine flu warnings, claiming to have new important information “for your protection.” The content includes:

  • Direct e-mails offering a downloadable PDF “Swine Flu Protection Guide” file costing $19.95.
  • According to PC Magazine, these sites also sell “Chinese herbs” that will supposedly cure all your swine flu ailments.
  • Both of these products are unconditionally bogus claims. You should avoid clicking on any external links in these emails. They may lead to phishing sites or download harmful viruses onto your computer.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a division of the Homeland Security Department, offered these tips to protect yourself from the scam:

1. Do not follow unsolicited web links or attachments in email messages.

2. Maintain up-to-date antivirus software.

3. Maintain an up-to-date personal firewall.

4. Set up your e-mail client for security.

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Scam Busters: Typosquatting
Scam Busters: ATM Skimmers
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